|The Reichstag from Berlin Hauptbahnhof|
On my train run from Berlin to Dresden, the cars were marked each with two different numbers, one an LED display on the side of the train, another printed on paper and attached to each of the car doors. I was lucky to have chosen the information on the paper. I was correctly in my reserved seat while cars full of confused passengers spent the first 45 minutes of the ride moving to another car, towing heavy luggage through the aisles. I thought the Germans were supposed to be good at this sort of thing. Germany makes the subway systems of Paris and Tokyo, for example, seem dazzlingly well thought out and clearly marked. [I had similar troubles later in the trip, going from Prague to Munich again: somebody else had the same seat reservation as me and the train was more than an hour late because, for some reason, what was supposed to be direct run terminated early and we had to make two transfers to slow local trains]. When I complained about the double reservation at Munich, the man at the window said flatly that a double booking was impossible (until I showed him the other person's ticket, which I had photographed) and then he blamed it on the Czechs). He grudgingly refunded my reservation fee of €4.5. There was no apology.]
It was a simple process to get my ticket validated for the next train to Prague, but I ended up with 90 minutes to wait and thus with a little time to get caught up. I found not only Berlin's transportation system a disappointment. Much of the central part of the city is under construction (a new tunnel is going in under Unter den Linden, for instance) and every public space was set up with giant video screens and bleachers in anticipation of Germany doing well in the World Cup soccer matches now going on. The view was obscured virtually anywhere you looked. Unter den Linden had rather small lindens, I thought. I wonder why? It wasn't the luxuriant tree-shaded avenue I imagined. Were the trees destroyed in the war and only recently replanted?
|Graffiti in Berlin|
Despite my complaining, Berlin was not without its attractions. Jonathan, my old friend from my time in Tokyo, came from Britain to spend a few days with me. We had trouble getting into the AirBnB apartment, but stopped for a drink at a nearby cafe while sorting things out. We walked along the River Spree and had dinner at a nearby Russian restaurant with decent borscht, kebabs, and lamb (the Turkish influence is everywhere). At breakfast the next morning, House Sparrows, well accustomed to croissant crumbs, ate from my hand. We went to look at the Brandenburg Gate, which was obscured by both construction and World Cup bleachers (which everywhere had a slightly forlorn look, as Germany has already been eliminated from the finals).
|Performer being filmed on|
Unter den Linden
In front of Humboldt University, there was a large book market, and, a little incongruously, a small film crew photographing a woman with a dyed red mohawk haircut, stack heels, fishnet stockings, a corset, and a whip, strutting about, cracking the whip. We were on our way to the Gendarmenmarkt—again a disappointment as the entire square was filled with a giant screen and more soccer seating. I got to see the churches at either end, but it was impossible to get a real feel for the square the buildings are bookends to. One consolation was a surprisingly good lunch. I had a cold asparagus and lime soup and grilled mackerel.
|The organ in Berlin Cathedral|
|Tagliolini with black truffles and pine nuts|
at Focaccino, Berlin
|Lion from the Ishtar Gate reconstruction in the Pergamon Museum|
After parting with Jonathan at the Hauptbahnhof, I went back to the Museuminsel (The Museum Island, an island in the Spree where many of the major museums in Berlin are) to see the national collection of paintings and then the Neues Museum, which famously houses the bust of Nefertiti. The museums hold a vast collection of artifacts from all over the ancient world. Having seen them all, I'm confused about what I saw in which museum, but a few favorites follow.
|Böcklin The Isle of the Dead (1883)|
|Edouard Manet In the Conservatory (1879)|
|Mythical creature in relief of King Ashurnasirpal II|
|Relief of King Ashurnasirpal II|
|Bust of Nefertiti|
It's astounding that it has survived so long in such good condition, despite the damage that's evident here and there (Nefertiti is missing an eye, for instance). I'd never noticed the subtle wrinkling under her eyes before. She seems alive and imperfectly perfect. As I have a very long lens on my camera, I had comparatively little trouble photographing her even though she was a good 30 feet away. The bust is stucco-coated limestone that has then been painted. Nefertiti was the wife of Akhenaten. According to Wikipedia, the bust is believed to have been made in 1345 BC by Thutmose, as it was found in his workshop in Amarna, Egypt, but little more seems to be known about its origins.
|The Berlin Golden Hat|